Per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, the team is ready to drop a max deal on the free-agent superstar:
Lakers made it clear to Melo today they'd offer the maximum, 4-yr, $97mil contract they can, if he chose them.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 4, 2014
The Lakers have almost no guaranteed salaries on their books—aside from Kobe Bryant's massive $23.5 million deal. Because of that, the team can afford to throw big dollars at Melo.
Some might argue that Melo isn't worth a maximum contract, but the numbers don't support that claim. Anthony has never averaged less than 21 points in his career, and at age 30, he is coming off arguably his best season.
He scored 27.4 points, pulled down 8.1 rebounds and dished 3.1 assists. He also shot 45 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and made 85 percent of his free throws. In no other season has Melo been as efficient.
Because he keeps himself in solid physical condition, has never had a major injury and his game isn't predicated on athleticism, Anthony could perform at a high level for four more years.
Still, he couldn't lead the Knicks to the postseason in the lowly Eastern Conference last season. Therein lies the nucleus of most of the criticism against the seven-time All-Star.
It's true, Anthony may not be the type of player who can hoist a team on his back and carry it to the postseason, but he is another elite scorer who would give the Lakers two of the major pieces needed to contend next season.
The other pieces missing from the puzzle are easier to find.
L.A. would need outside shooting in a major way. Floor spacing is key, and to keep defenders from converging on Bryant and Melo, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak must find guards who can make teams pay for double-teaming.
Those guards also need to be solid perimeter defenders. Three-and-D players are there to be had and likely wouldn't cause the Lakers to break the bank. Filling out the roster with ring-chasers and young players willing to play for low-cost deals for a chance at a title would be the most likely route.
Aside from all the on-court details, Melo in a Lakers uniform would simply be a big deal from a pop culture standpoint. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report explains:
It would change the Lakers' plans in a snap, with club management ready to shift gears to offer long-term dollars for others in pursuit of winning right now. And the Lakers would be back on the map in the critical sports category of relevance, which might not equate to official contender status but means an awful lot in the real world.
While Anthony isn't the near-perfect all-around player that LeBron James is, he could still be a significant piece on a contending and polarizing team next season and beyond. That counts for something.
It would be nice to have a coach with a winning track record in place, but a ton of dollars is the best way to try and make up the difference.
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